Saint Hillrie Church of God in Christ hosted their annual Choir Day concert on Sept. 14, at 88th Street Temple COGIC. The concert celebrated the achievements and dedication of gospel music icon, Professor Iris Stevenson-McCullough, by performing songs from her renowned album, “Restore My Joy.”
Saint Hillrie music director and Bennett-Kew Elementary principal LaRoyce Murphy prayed for the right theme for the annual concert and the Lord revealed to her that it was time to appreciate Stevenson-McCullough for her strides in the gospel music industry.
“Choir Day is like ministry,” Murphy said. “We wanted the message to get out to people and there’s a message in every song that Professor Iris Stevenson-McCullough has wrote.” The Saint Hillrie Choir sang several songs from the album including, “It’ll Be in Vain,” “Restore My Joy,” “Ye Shall Never Fall” and “Give Him the Glory.”
“That is a major gospel hit that has been sung by many different churches and celebrity gospel artists,” Murphy said. “We actually did our processional to ‘Give Him the Glory.’”
Age Five, a children’s group from Saint Hillrie, performed a hymn written by Stevenson-McCullough. The Jubilee Performing Arts Conservatory traveled from McComb, Mississippi to surprise Stevenson-McCullough with a performance.
“She mentored the directors [at Jubilee] and she also visited there, conducted workshops and trained them, too,” said Vanity Brown, who sang with the choir. “They came and sang ‘Glory to the Name of Jesus’ in German and English.”
Stevenson-McCullough is well known throughout the Church of God in Christ community and as the tenured choir director at Crenshaw High School. Through her years teaching at Crenshaw, she has trained generations of students to travel and perform in Europe, the West Indies, Asia and Africa at concerts and singing competitions. Her story was the inspiration of the movie, “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit.”
Brown has been a mentee of Stevenson-McCullough since her adolescent years and now instills her tutelage to the Love Light Children’s Choir, an organization she created.
“She taught me how to sing,” Brown said. “She let me travel with and took me around the world.” The concert was a way to catch a glimpse the vast body of work of Stevenson-McCullough.
“We wanted the young people, as well as older people, to hear the music that she has written,” Murphy said. “[We want them] to get to know her and to understand the work that she has done.”